To Vote, Or Not To Vote That Is The Question

My apologies to Shakespeare, but the phrasing so clearly expresses the dilemma that I have faced since the mid-sixties, when my friends and I discussed our objections to boys too young to vote on matters of war, being drafted and sent to Vietnam. By the time voting rights for 18 year olds had been passed, I was so disillusioned with the government that I, personally, took the stance of refusing to vote.

As a young child, living just twelve miles from where I currently reside, many of my earliest memories are of voting and party choices. A favorite family story told of how my great-grandfather and his brother, one a Democrat and one a Republican, would constantly argue about politics, then ride together to the polls. Their commitment to voting, even though they knew that one’s vote would cancel that of the other, never wavered. If it was time to vote, one was honor bound to do it. In my home, the whole family rode to the township hall so that my parents could vote. I am often reminded of those excursions, for that township hall is where we have our family Christmas and special occasion parties. The same voting booths are there, varnished and gleaming.

For many, many years I did not vote; my decision stemming from my gut level distrust of the State. In silence I accepted the stern reprimands from my father, as he attempted to drive home the point that I had no right to criticize anything that the government did since I refused to make my preferences known by voting. Since the schools had only provided me with rewritten history, I lacked the facts and insights with which I might have defended my decision and myself. Still I refused to vote for Tweedle Dee or Tweedle Dum.

Recently, while reading Murray Rothbard’s, The Case Against the Fed, I was reminded of my father’s blind loyalty to his Party…

For the “Third Party System,” which had existed in America from 1856 to 1896, was comprised of political parties, each of which was highly ideological and in intense conflict with the opposing party. While each political party, in this case the Democratic, the Republican and various minor parties, consisted of a coalition of interests and forces, each was dominated by a firm ideology to which it was strongly committed. As a result, citizens often felt lifelong party loyalties, were socialized into a party when growing up, were educated in party principles, and then rode herd on any party candidates who waffled or betrayed the cause. (Pg. 90—91)

Rothbard continues,

For various reasons, the Democratic and Republican parties after 1900…were largely non-ideological, differed very little from each other, and as a result commanded little party loyalty. In particular, the Democratic Party no longer existed, after the Bryan takeover of 1896, as a committed laissez-faire, hard-money party. From then on, both parties rapidly became Progressive and moderately statist.” (Pg. 91)

Even had I been able to put evidence such as this before my father, it would not have modified his thinking. It is almost as if such individuals are caught in some kind of a time warp. They have been socialized to party loyalty without being taught the facts and the intellectual reasoning behind the original stances held prior to 1896. Any belief that they should hold a party to a ‘firm ideology’ has been bred out of them, or simply lost along the way.

I did, finally, become a voter, although never for my father’s party. Still I never felt comfortable about voting, but neither did I feel comfortable about not voting. Possibly I dreaded old messages from childhood returning to haunt me. During the last election I did go to the polls, but I cast only one (1) vote — against a candidate I despised. I have continued to fret — to vote, or not to vote.

Recently I received a brochure from the “Sons Of Liberty” in Central Florida, entitled, VOTING STRATEGY — 2004 — WHEN “THE LESSER OF TWO EVILS” IS NO LONGER AN OPTION. The title caught my eye, and their rationale for voting makes a great deal of sense. They begin with this:

The most effective argument to convince patriotic Americans to support the Republican Party has been that “The Republicans will do less damage to the Constitution than the Democrats will — and besides, what other choice is there?” The conservative vote is taken for granted by the Republican leadership because they believe that we have nowhere else to turn; from a purely pragmatic short-range view, perhaps they are correct. The result has been a Republican Party that ignores conservative values because it has no incentive to do otherwise. The time has come to provide that incentive.

I had to agree with this summation, and I continued reading,

The Republican Party is the dominant party today because it has the conservative vote. Let’s look at what Republicans have done with the power that conservatives entrusted to them.

President George W. Bush has presided over a dramatic increase in the size, cost, scope, and power of the federal government that would be the envy of even the most radical socialist. He has stated his support of the clearly- unconstitutional Clinton gun ban and has vowed to sign a replacement into law (the current law has a sunset provision that expires in 2004) should it reach his desk. His Attorney General has made it his personal crusade to get ever-greater power for the government to snoop into the private lives of citizens. Bush has used the military to invade a sovereign nation that had no realistic chance of threatening America, while at the same time encouraging a flood of illegal third-world immigrants across our borders. Yet many conservatives continue to support this administration. Why? Because they believe they have no other choice — the alternatives are even worse.

Please excuse me as I continue to quote from this pamphlet, for a summary would not do it justice:

Conservatives have fallen into the trap of only looking at the short range. It is probably (but no longer certainly) true that America would be better off with a Republican administration than with a Democratic administration — in any given year. However, that completely misses the point. The direction that the country is headed in must be looked at in terms of decades and generations — not as a four-year presidential term.

The Sons of Liberty list four options:

1) Continue to vote for the Republican Party candidates. Maybe we won’t end up with a Democrat — or maybe we will. Either way, the Republican Party learns once again that they have the conservative vote no matter what they do.

2) Vote for the Democratic candidates. Some on the far edges of conservatism have suggested this as a way to hurry along what they see as the inevitable collapse of America, and see a rebuilding as freedom’s opportunity.

3) Don’t vote at all. This is a common strategy in other parts of the world. The objective is to demonstrate that the elections are not valid by boycotting the election. Another objective of this strategy is to voice dissatisfaction with all the candidates — effectively saying “None of the above.”

4) Vote for a third-party candidate.

The pamphlet points out that Option 1 has already been discussed and points out that a vote for the Republicans will assure a drive off the same cliff, but at a speed within the posted limit. They believe that Option 2 should be dismissed as not lending itself to rational discussion. Regarding the last two options, they have this to say,

Option 3 is based on the assumption that anyone would notice that people were not voting. It is also based on the assumption that the parties would know why people were not voting. Not voting at all simply means that the political strategists ignore you. Being ignored is not our intent.

Option 4 is what we believe to be the best choice at this point. The objective is to show that there are votes available that the Republican Party will not get until they change their ways. The objective is not to find and support a third party candidate who can win an election. For the foreseeable future, that just is not going to happen. Instead, the objective is to demonstrate to the Republican Party that voters will leave the party if they are not represented by that party. The working assumption by the Republican Party has always been that conservatives have nowhere else to turn, and that they are pragmatic enough to not “waste their vote” by voting for a third party. Our objective is to show that assumption to be false.

Again, the point of this option is not to find a third party with any chance of winning, but that the voters “take a long range view and sacrifice in the short term if needed. We are working for future generations, not for ourselves.”

The Sons of Liberty end with, “The only important point in making your decision is that your vote must be clearly seen as one that the Republicans should have gotten. Choose your party/candidate wisely.” They list conservative political parties: Libertarian Party; Constitution Party; America First Party; and the Southern Party.

Hmmm…”your vote must be clearly seen as one that the Republicans should have gotten.” Yes, I think that it is time that we, in the words of Murray Rothbard, “ride herd” on any candidate, and the party as a whole, for “waffling” and for betraying America. We voters have been taken for granted — for far too long. We have gone with our interests misrepresented or un-represented, since that long ago era when the various political parties “were dominated by a firm ideology to which it was strongly committed.” When political parties again truly and honorably represent the real wishes of the people, then and only then, should we again loyally support one particular party.

So, I will vote in the next election, but the Republicans have definitely lost my support. I will go to the polls and cast my votes for candidates from one or more of the four conservative groups listed. I will be sure to inform every Republican fundraiser of my decision, asking that they convey my message accurately to their supervisors. Why, I will even send each Republican caller a copy of my Letter to Ken Mehlman, should they profess an interest. Yes, I am relieved to finally have a voting strategy!